Using Story to Compel: A Book Review of The Storyteller’s Secret

StrengthsFinder Isogo Storyteller's Review

I was entering junior high, barely able to imagine days away from my parents and torn over the decision to bring or leave my beloved blanket during my first ever 5-day summer camp. The week was filled with trips to the soda shop, endless card games, long nighttime chats, and team games that left me muddy and cold and smiling ear to ear.

Every evening, we would gather as a group of 200+ junior highers, to connect and learn and hear from the camp speaker. One of those evenings, I will never forget. I sat in my usual spot, cozy in my oversized sweatshirt, elbow to elbow with my camp friends that were to become life-time kindred spirits. As I forced my focus away from my distracted 12-year-old mind to the words being spoken in front of me, I was captivated.

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Our speaker was funny and compelling and completely zoned in on his passion. In the magnetism of the room, you could feel his effectiveness. He told stories that resonated with the heart of a 7th grader and cast a vision for what brilliance lay in store for each of us.

As he wrapped up the evening and outcast his hands in a final demonstration, I was in for life. I was ready to own my life and ready for deep change in store.

As I think back to this experience now, I wonder exactly what was so compelling about this particular evening. Certainly there were unearthly forces at play, and yet, no one would have been moved but for the power of the speaker. He did not compel with facts and rules and statistics. Rather he compelled with story, by painting a picture of what could be and helping us see ourselves in that future.

The speaker that evening was a master storyteller.

Fast forward 24 years and I find myself with a reason to master the same craft, with the same desire to communicate truth and vision and the possibility of change.

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So, recently, with my Business Book Mastermind {aka Accountability} group, I read The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo. We’ve read a variety of books over the past several years, ranging from the the moderately impactful to completely perspective-changing.

I would rank Storyteller’s Secret among the top. There were so many moments of connection and “a-ha” as I read and resonated, as well as some areas of disconnect. So, today I’m sharing those points of Connect and Disconnect with the Storyteller’s Secret, and I’m throwing my own Application in there as well.

Bottom line: I would recommend it to anyone who wants to compel as they communicate their message…or have more meaningful conversations!


  • Keys to Awesome Speaking. In general, this book resonated hugely in my world of speaking and selling (because isn’t all training a bit of salesmanship?). It drove home some of the key points to be included in even the most basic of presentations, such as:
    • Passion, no matter what others may think. Clarity of mission and passion for it is compelling.
    • Brevity, as per Winston Churchill, “short words are best.” Now this is one I could really refine!
    • Powerful imagery. Love this aspect, aesthetics are so important to me. I changed up my next presentation after reading this section.
    • Humanizing with struggle. There is always a dramatic arc, with a hero and villain
    • Personalizing. Transparency and overcoming draws people in.
    • Analogy is key. Brings the abstract or unexperienced into the fold.
    • Power in the details. Love this one—from a professor of Psychology at University of Toronto, detailed stories stimulate the same neurological regions of he brains as if we were encountering the situation in real life, so include them!
    • Create and use laughter. “The end of laughter is followed by the height of listening,” so don’t waste it.
    • Use the unexpected. By thinking through what is expected and providing a step beyond, we’ve engaged a sense of wonder and openness. This includes tactile physicality.
  • Book Structure. The book’s design was stellar—it helped me turn each page and know what to expect. Each chapter is written around the speaking brilliance of one particular person. The author began each chapter with a story of the person’s history, struggle, or plight. Then, after the reader is completely invested, the author specifically introduces the speaker’s tools and tricks, in detail. This “how to” section is then followed by a 1-2 sentence “take home” for each chapter. This structure effectively created a book that was full of compelling story AND practical value.
  • Everyday conversations. As I was reading, it occurred to me that it is not only in my speaking, training and writing that these aspects of storytelling are crucial, but how impactful it could be to bring consciousness to these skills during my everyday interactions. This includes conversations with friends, instruction to our kids, communicating in conflict with my husband, weekly meetings with my team, and more. Every interaction could benefit from some great storytelling secrets.

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  • Overwhelm. At times, it felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. With the magnitude of effective “techniques” that are held in this book, there was a sense of overwhelm that came over me as I realized that I would never attain them all. I would bet that the author’s intent is not to encourage the adoption of every single application, rather to use the aspects that resonate the most to come up with my own style, voice, and effectiveness, so that’s where I’ll start.
  • Repetitive. After a while, I found myself wondering if each new story was just a different way of saying the same thing. The emphasis on passion, mission and voice were especially repetitive throughout the book and began to feel less impactful toward the end.
  • Lifetime of learning. It was both encouraging and overwhelming to read of the time and commitment that many communicators have put into developing their craft. It was encouraging to know that it does not have to be a natural talent to be accomplished—storytelling is a skill that can be learned. Yet, for this gal who is low in natural Communication talent, the journey will be quite a long one!

Of these Connections and Disconnections, I found several points of personal application:


  • Passion. Be bold and clear in leaning into my own passion and communicate it through story.
  • Balance. Take on the practice of balancing details with brevity and simplicity.
  • Imagery & Analogy. Incorporate more meaningfully into my workshops, training, and speaking, Refine those that are already there.
  • Personalize. Continue to tread the waters of personal experience, knowing that it is real stories that really compel.
  • Practice. As an unnatural storyteller, create an “idea bank” for story ideas that I experience or recall so that when it comes to writing or telling a story, I have a repository ready!

So, that pretty much sums up The Storyteller’s Secret—for its power and usefulness. Here’s to more story-filled conversations in store as we each learn to be our own master storyteller!



Links & Resources from Today

The Storyteller’s Secret
StrengthsFinder is Life Changing | Show Up with What You Bring {Step 6 of 9}
Isogo TV Episode 23 | The MOST Effective Communication Strategies (That Really Get Through!)
Isogo TV Episode 35 | An Inside Look from Becky—How Isogo’s Vision Includes You
I Was Wrong About the Impact of this Book, Essentialism Crushes It
StrengthsFinder + Strengths Startup
9 Steps to Life-change through your Strengths

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As always, one of the best places to join the Strengths conversation is over at our Facebook Group — Energy Up Frustration Down by Strengths. Join us for weekly chatting, complaining and commending, as we all try to figure out just how to use our Strengths to impact the most important things around us—in our work and life.

In the meantime and beyond, I would love to hear from you and help you. So, if you’re thinking about the way a Strengths-perspective could impact your marriage or your family or you’re just not so sure about it all, reach out, and let’s connect about it. You can catch me at Facebook or Twitter, both @isogostrong, or by this handy contact form.

Enjoy your day, and {be strong}!

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